When I found out I was pregnant I put on the burden of motherhood. It was light then, I could go about my day without being weighed down by it. As Livia grew, so did it, it became heavier, it made it harder for me to move around, both literally and figuratively.
After her birth it was suffocating. The first weeks with a newborn are hard: little sleep occurs, diaper pails overflow and feedings stretch for hours. And all of this on top of recovering from what is, at best, equivalent of running a marathon and at its worst major surgery. I remember feeling trapped by early motherhood. I remember crying in the shower one day during her first week mourning my pre-baby life. I desperately loved Livia, but I wasn’t sure if I made a terrible mistake bringing a child into my life. I cried when the sun went down because I was exhausted but knew I would get maybe an hour or two of sleep between feedings. There was a heaviness in those early days I couldn’t shake.
Eight months later there are days when the burden of motherhood is almost unbearable. Livia sleeps longer, eats better and I’m completely recovered from her birth, but I still carry the coat around. While the burden is physically easier, there are days when I am mentally exhausted. The decisions we make now seem much more influential to her: Do we need to get our out of our bed? Doesn’t she need to learn to fall asleep on her own? Shouldn’t I be buying all organic produce for her to eat? Are we depriving her of important social interaction by not sending her to daycare? If we send her to daycare will that create trust issues? How do I night wean her without destroying her sense of security? On top of those terribly important decisions are the judgments society throws out so callously. The flash in someone’s eyes after I tell them that I’m still working. The sideways glances when I breastfeed Livia in public. The judgment that I am not doing the right thing, not by a long shot.
Trying to keep up with it all: work, Livia, housekeeping, cooking and still having meaningful conversations with my husband is hard. It leaves me in a constant state of “I’m not enough, I don’t have what it takes.” And that might be the heaviest part of the burden I carry – the overwhelming feeling that I’m not enough. I run myself ragged trying to get everything done that needs to be, cleaning bottles, pumping, diaper changes, bedtime stories, washing clothes, cooking supper and my list is never done. For a break I open Facebook or Instagram and I see moms with perfectly clean houses, hair that’s been styled, flawless makeup and a killer closet and then I look around – my house is a mess, on a good day my hair looks decent, I don’t even know the last time I put on eyeshadow and half of the clothes in my closet I can’t wear because I need to be able to access my boobs.
When the feelings of inadequacy raise their head – it makes it hard to imagine another 25 years of raising children. I worry that I am adversely affecting Livia because I am not good enough for her. I worry that Douglas needs more than I am able to offer. I worry that my boss is getting ready to give me the boot because my mind is in a thousand different places while I’m at work. It makes each day seem so bleak, just another day to get through.
But mommas, I’m trying to take control of my emotions back. The smiles I get from Livia when I get home from work are so pure and so genuine that I want to see myself the way she sees me. I don’t want her to remember her mom as a stressed out mess that was perpetually unhappy about everything in her life. I want to be so much more for her. I want her to see someone who loves to be silly with her and stop everything I’m doing to play. I want to remember that Christ valued me enough to give his life for mine and he promises: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” I remember that I am doing the best I can. No one, not even those Instagram moms, has it all together. And I promise myself to give other moms just a bit of encouragement, because, they too, are doing the best they can. The snap judgments that hurt me so acutely, I am guilty of toward other moms and I vow to stop myself the next time I get ready to hurl a painful statement or offer a look of dissatisfaction. Motherhood isn’t a challenge-no one wins, there isn’t a limited supply of happiness in the world and someone else’s joy isn’t going to take away my own.
So moms, on the good days offer a fellow mom and word of encouragement, pay it forward. Remember that we are truly all in this together.